Making the Reader THIRST! – Part 4

Another question:

What’s the difference between tension and suspense?

I get my ideas from Sol Stein’s book “On Writing Fiction”.

Tension is the short bursts of stress, strain and pressure that fades away and must be renewed again and again.

Suspense is making the reader ask “what will happen” and keeping their curiosity as long as possible. Suspense is making the reader cry out for resolution and then dance away and deal with other things.

In the graph, you put a single positive value between 1 and 10 for THIR-T. The software that makes the graph adds that tension and then makes it fade away automatically, so these “tension” values must be renewed each scene.

But the “S” suspense value gets both a positive and a negative. You can only put a positive value in when you raise a question in the reader that you do not answer. When you answer it later, you need to put a negative value. The goal of writing (commercial fiction) is to raise the suspense as the book moves forward and then at the end answer all or most of the questions. So you want that “S” value moving up and up without too many downs until the end of the book. Any value left over at the end of your book should represent any lingering questions that would intrigue the reader to read the next book, etc…

Another way to put it is: Tension makes each scene enjoyable, but Suspense is what drives the reader on to the end of the book.

Click here to go to Part 5 of this THIRST series.